How To Pass Time Waiting For a Publisher’s Response

 

Write. Check email. Play with kids. Clean house. Feed kids and make sure they get ready for the day ahead. Check email. Google “standard publishing contracts, tiered rejection letters and what they mean, how to get a literary agent and reading the success stories of those whom have already, ‘been there, done that, read the book and wrote the sequel.’ Read more of the book Writing the Character Centered Screenplay by Andrew Horton. Watch more TVO with the kids. Play the drums with my daughter and guitar with my son. (Please note I do not know how to play a musical instrument so my definition of play is not dependent on talent.) Do anything but check the email for the rest of the day if I can help it. I easily could have chewed to the cuticles of my nails by now with all the anticipation I’m feeling (but I haven’t and likely won’t) while waiting for the results: I’m waiting to know whether or not a certain publisher is going to accept or pass on my manuscript Nuka.

It started a few days ago when I received a reply to a follow-up email from the publisher who is aware I have been waiting a few months for a verdict on my manuscript. I can’t say I expected so much as a boo from the editor before he makes his decision as editors are notorious for their crazy and demanding work schedules but the response he took the time to provide to my follow-up email was more than appreciated. I was told I’ll know this week whether or not they are interested in publishing my work.

I am hoping to being offered a publishing contract but I am also realistic, it could go either way and I have to prepare for that. I’ve received form letters in the past on projects that never moved on to see the light of day while other work has gone on to be published or optioned so I can anticipate how I might react if the answer is not what I’m hoping but it doesn’t make the wait any easier.

Past rejection letters have pushed me to write more and work harder on developing my prose and scripts. I’ve contemplated writing the crappiest rejection letter I could possibly receive to alleviate the stress I might feel if the answer is not in my favor but honestly, that’s been done and these writers are either still twiddling their fingers at their desk or they’re published or optioned and writing more. (It still for some reason sounds like a good idea to at least pass some time).

And then I remind myself that even famous authors have had their share of rejection letters and that it would not be an anomaly if it happened to me. http://mentalfloss.com/article/26662/try-try-again-rejection-letters-received-bestselling-authors

I’ve been thinking of ways to pass the time this week and so far they include generating story ideas, photography fun at Mud Lake, getting my nails done, going to the beach, taking the family to the museum, eating chocolate sundaes at Dairy Queen, work on trashing a wedding dress I have for a potential short I might shoot for Digi60 which is coming up soon see http://www.digi60.org

Honestly I don’t know why this response waiting period feels different than the others. It’s my first novella but not my first published book. It only carries with it the weight of my blood, sweat, and tears I put into it metaphorically bleeding to death at the keyboard, searching for the right word, eliminating sentences that end with adverbs, keeping the story in the present tense, creating roadblocks for the protagonist along the way, building suspense, all that great textbook stuff writers’ ought to include to make a compelling story. But I remind myself, my book is not me, I am not my book. The book and I are not one and therefore any decision that is arrived at is completely impersonal and in no way a reflection of who I am or my worth as a writer. It will either complement the books that the publisher is looking for or delivers, or it won’t.

I would just be ecstatic to receive a positive response but I am open to all the possibilities that lay before me with the answer just out of my grasp at this time.

So I have made the decision that whatever the result I will dedicate the next few weeks devoted to finishing rewriting that feature length script I’ve been working on. I will research self-marketing a little more, look into getting Loved Like Me my children’s book on adoption formatted for circulation again and perhaps I will research literary agents that work with traditional publishers and continue work on a novel I have more than 100 pages written on so far.

For good measure I will drink a plethora of coffee, write more blogs and update my social media posts with everything hopefully unrelated to this self-torture of counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds, another milestone of my life as a writer will either be made or missed. My children will continue to keep me busy playing with Play-Dough, singing those wonderful songs from Mary Poppins, (because we all know what a spoonful of sugar does) and how that’s helpful if coffee is your drug of choice {at least if you’ve seen the film this may resonate with you}, and right now a word like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is exactly what I need to explain what I’m feeling inside.

Whatever the results I do not know when or if I will have the resolve to publish them.

Will the manuscript be accepted or rejected? Contract or form letter? Tiered rejection letter? Some other response? Will I need an agent? Would I want an agent? The possibilities are numerous. I don’t know. But I do know that my current project won’t get written by itself. I tell myself I’ve got this. What writing projects are you working on these days? What has your experience with publishers been like? How did you react when you received rejection or acceptance letters? I’d love to know.

Back to work.

 

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Writing beyond the Grave

 

When waking up at 3 a.m. and having the memories of a very ancient obituary writing assignment on my mind for absolutely no reason at all, I decided to get up and write this blog so as to contemplate how death and dying is represented in different writing forms and the difference in the way it is conveyed in social media and literature.

Obituary writing is not all it’s cut out to be. When I was first assigned to write the obituary of a living person as a learning assignment while studying journalism I think I would have sooner chewed my arm off. I did not want to decide someone’s method of dying when they were still on the planet breathing the God given air we have. I was not worthy or meant for such a fate. By luck, or misfortune, the person to whom I had been assigned learned of the true nature of my assignment by chance.

It turned out that the person to whom I had been assigned was particularly superstitious and by the next day I was forbidden from completing the assignment and given an alternate one in its place. But that didn’t excuse me from learning the ins and outs of what an obituary must include.

In the digital age many readers are thirsty for information, as much of it as can be dished to them as possible and many are fooled by death hoaxes circulating on social media.

Writing about death in its many forms is an industry of its own and it is the elephant in the room that demands to be heard.

While it is unpleasant and no one particularly enjoys discussing it (okay some people do) death has amassed its notoriety for its ability to employ the masses writing obits, doing feature news reports, collecting hits on social media platforms and writing memoirs of famous and fictional people who pass.

Have you ever examined death in literature? Because writing is such a fine art the writing of a character’s passing can be particularly painful for the author and sometimes, just as hard on the reader. Why? Because even though these people are fictional (unless you’re writing a memoir) and often times play smaller roles in the novel, as authors and readers we invest our time and our minds to “getting to know them” and what they represent: their values, hobbies, likes, dislikes, hurts and triumphs, all that life has to offer for a character in a book, especially a good book, leaves us often wishing for more time to “know” the character that was created. Other times readers are glad the S.O.B (whomever it is) has finally kicked the bucket and that means a happily ever after ending they have so painstakingly been hoping for, doesn’t it?

The writing process that goes into killing off a character or revealing a character’s death is different for every author. Sometimes, ‘he died’ is all one needs to write to make the desired impact the author is searching for, other times it is more beneficial to draw out a character’s passing over an entire chapter through other characters’ dialogue, setting up the location to reflect something morose and let the circumstance of the person/character’s death make the impact on the reader.

Does life ever end happily ever after? Is there happiness in dying? Is there a reward in writing about dying? You bet there is. For the life of a writer it is all part of making a living.

 

 

 

Five Unwritten Rules in Writing You Haven’t Heard (from me)

 

  1. Writing query letters to editors and book to proposals to publishers is fun (okay I’ll be honest, it’s really not) but it doesn’t guarantee you will get a reply or a sale. (It also doesn’t mean you won’t). Listening to what editors suggest to you in their feedback just might help you get that contract.
  2. Writing articles on spec is the only excuse you’ll have to take yourself on a date night alone if you have kids. (Maybe even if you don’t but you just want to get away.) #movienight #girlsnight #coffeedate #manicure #facials #finedining #needIgoon
  3. Write a children’s books and you’ll have a break from reality. Write a non-fiction novel and you could live vicariously through those whom succeeded doing the same thing before you and went on to make the bestsellers lists.
  4. Blog for a day you may attract readers. Blog for life and you may gain followers. Blog because you like the writing process and you could make an income if you have both.
  5. Many of the great writers are known for their solid work ethic. How much of your free time are you dedicating to writing these days? Coming soon an interview with one of Ottawa’s classiest Influencers in the business and writing world.

Money for Nothing: Cheques For Free

The F Word

 

This blog has been quiet for a while now. In part because I have been focused a lot on turning forty this year and in part because I have been too busy with being a mom and a photographer while waiting to hear back from a second publisher about a thriller I finished earlier this year.

The first publisher I queried recently responded with a pretty rejection letter that included a personal note which defined my manuscript Nuka as “culturally rich”. With all the talk in the air of cultural appropriation I find myself in a possible predicament with the book having Inuit characters and a northern theme and even though my husband and children are Inuit  (I am not ) and so I am taking steps to decide whether or not to go forward with publication.

I have been seeking the opinions and input of members of the Inuit community and first sending my manuscript to northern publishers who I feel would best input whether or not I should go forward with publication. throughout creation of the manuscript I welcomed feedback from the community through my social media statuses.

In other news I have been studying the craft of writing as always through books dating back to the early eighties (that’s another blog)  and working on a re-write of my first feature film but at my age, excuses for not writing and engaging of the craft of at least thinking about writing count for nothing. Did I mention I’m turning forty? (Yes, that’s weighing heavily on me these days). I may create a count down to forty project, it’s up in the air.

I figured by now I would have published a few books, had more articles produced, written more short stories but in truth the stories do not write themselves and I have always been more focused on family than career since I hit thirty-two. My first children’s book did not get the type of distribution I hoped for and as a result I pulled it off the market. I had my pity party. I’m over it now and have moved on to other projects. Most of which, until today were still in the thinking stage.

For a long time I had a basement office, which I finally invited my husband to let him turn it into a man cave, or whatever it is men do with basements when their wives aren’t hogging that space. As a result I have bags of books to give away that I also swore I would have read by now when I bought them. (There are only about four bookcases worth of books in this place to begin with, maybe five if I count the ones I have aside that I still plan to read.)

I have written a few extra paragraphs onto a manuscript I started around 2012 but I don’t count that as progress, the fictitious child is still trapped in a negligent home and the siblings are still at war with one another. However, if I make good starting today this book may be done by year’s end yet. (Update: the child is being rescued and it could be a happy ending yet.)

In doing things I love, mothering, housecleaning (kidding but it’s a necessary evil), taking the kids to the library and going out for coffee I have found it difficult to leave my camera behind. I have discovered that it takes a few seconds to tell a story from start to finish with a single image than it does coming up with the right word for a sentence when the one that comes to mind fails to meet its purpose and the minute hand on the clock ticks like a dreadful fading pulse as if every metaphorical breath could be the character’s last if I don’t think up another word and fast.

I’ve been doing a lot of freelance photography work and for a while I feared that I might actually enjoy photography more than writing. I realise now that’s not possible (for me) as I have finally found my way back to the keyboard and to you the reader without whom this blog would just be a bunch of pixels wasting away. And now, coffee.

Writing Literary Fiction

 

Let it be Known

luckyHappy St. Paddy’s Day! The luck of the Irish seemed to be with me today. I finally got up the gumption (a word my husband uses a lot that seems to have rubbed off on me) to send off my novella, Nuka, to its first potential publishing home. And then hours later, I got a sneak peek (posted to my author page on Facebook) facebook.com/shewriteswords of my interview with a local celebrity in the cooking world in Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine.

I’m sharing my top three notes with you about my experience sending off the novella and how it compared to when I pitched my children’s book Loved Like Me to potential publishers (take notes):

  1. That nerve wracking feeling you get the second you hit the send button – it stays the same.
  2. The query letter was shorter, sweeter and (sticking to the KISS principle) the subject line followed suit but I wrote something (I hope) will grab the publishers attention as opposed to the standard “query letter” (because they get tons of those).
  3. Following the rush that comes with sending off years of hard work (okay months that spanned over a two year period) I still had that air of, did I just hang myself with a metaphorical noose? Should I change my name while no one still knows who I am? Followed by, about time you sucked it up, buttercup. Next!
  4. I feel ready to tackle a new novel but not before celebrating completion of this project. Rewarding my hard work with a night of R&R (‘cause I’m a Mom and that’s how I roll).
  5. I’m going to start the work day tomorrow by putting a big red X through my office calendar. The countdown for acceptance or rejection is on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

D-I-V-O-R-C-E,Commitment and the Writer

weddress

 

I’ve divorced myself from the writing lifestyle. That is to say, I’ve been away from regular hours in the office typing away at a keyboard. I haven’t committed to writing exercises, carrying around books to study the plot and character structure or even just to bask in a café and enjoy the winter scenery of page after page of even my favorite author and I’m not about to apologize. In fact, it is quite possible the healthiest thing I have done for my writing career to date.

Minus a blog here and there it’s been nothing but leisure activities including but not limited to photographing everything under the sun, family time and watching some great flicks. (As long as I can keep my eyes open after the kids are asleep that is). More than one person has suggested and I agree they are right, that perhaps it’s too soon for my little ones to be watching Misery or Carrie so I save the horrors and thrillers for when they are sleeping  CryptTV.com streams some of my favs. Then there’s the action movies I have to choose from and my fav actors to watch. I never tire of films with Johnny Depp or Meryl Streep (Ottawa’s local actors are also quite good but I’m not naming names. You know who you are.)

I love watching One True Thing for the thousandth time. I cry every time I watch Losing Isaiah. The Deep End of the Ocean is a touching drama that will pull at heart strings too, I love that the protagonist is a mother and a photographer. I’m a fan of Finding Forrester. Alice Through the Looking Glass and Maleficent is a go to when I just want to get away from it all. G.I Jane, Far and Away, God Bless the Child, my absolute favorite local film is, I can’t say actually (I have a few preferences) but ottawashortfilms.com has a collection of great shorts.

I’ve been pressed for time to make it to the theatres but I would have loved to see La La Land,

A Monster Calls and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

I drink less coffee and more tea these days, my Stephen King book, Blaze, came in handy when I had to go to the emergency room in a matter where everything worked out; I got to read little more than a paragraph that night. Like I said, I really have not been living the writer’s life as of late.

I meet people in person over chatting online. I talk to strangers but I don’t take notes. I ride the bus but I don’t use my senses to explain the experience of being transported from one end of the city to the other, I don’t bother to take note of the sights, smells and other senses. Instead, I chat with my children playing silly mom and daughter/son games. I speak loudly when it might be better to whisper. I remember who I am when I’m not a writer. I breathe.

Life. It’s all about life and living. But I’m here now, committed once again to the writer’s lifestyle and the dedication and focus I need to recommit to get manuscripts polished and sent out and queries ready for publishers. Really, I went on a Writer’s Vacation, I plan to do it again in the future now that I remember. I remember who I am when I am not a writer.

Sometimes, you just have to say no to the workload and deadlines. Sometimes, you have to choose yourself over your work, your health over a hefty paycheque. Sometimes saying no is what writers’ like me really need to do to really want to say yes when all is said and done. This is what I want. This is what I do.

What do you say?

 

 

 

Hot Topic to kick off 2017

 

I believe there is truth in the statement that art imitates life and some of the most compelling stories ever brought to light in film and novels have been of real people going through real life tragedies.

I have been a freelance journalist for a bigger portion of my life. I have been assigned, thought of and written firsthand accounts of people from all walks of life .Cat’s out of the bag so to speak. I won’t claim that I have *never found at least *one idea from real life that didn’t appeal to me to write as a work of fiction but there were a lot of things I would have taken into consideration *if I had moved forward with writing from real life experiences.

I would also argue that the truth can be a powerful thing in the hands of an experienced writer. Like all things though, the truth can have dark sides that sometimes no one should be privy to and the question becomes, how far would you go to keep a secret if you were asked? When is drawing stories from real life events beneficial or is it possible that long term it could be harmful? What would you do when faced with possibly the biggest story of your career and the subject was someone you knew? The real question is: How ethical are you as a writer in drawing your writing ideas from real life and writing them into existence?

Have you ever had deep conversation with someone about their life and then wanted to tell their story on the page? Is it ever okay to use someone else’s pain for profit? Would you have the guts to ask someone for their permission to write their life story? How would you answer if someone asked if you, ‘wrote them’, into a story without their knowledge?

Writing people we know and turning them into characters in a story is something that hypothetically, could be done. In memoirs, the subject is fact and the people (most of the time) are from real life. As a fiction writer, if you were writing from an idea drawn from a person IRL you could make a few changes to the sex of the character, the dialogue and gender you could absolutely spin a tale about someone you didn’t like or who had wronged you using a storyline you overheard or a conversation you had until that character or someone else you created was in h*ll in a handbasket so to speak and possibly feel no remorse (okay, maybe you might feel remorse) or maybe you want to write someone out of a bad real life ending and conclude the story with some happily-ever-after idea. That’s the great thing about writing. Anything is possible. The power stays with the author during the writing process.

Let’s say Bob tells Jane that Sally left Tom because he’s an alcoholic. Would you go write a story about Tom? Probably not. But, if you know Tom really well then we can safely say you know his mannerisms, his hobbies, that he picks his nose too much and that his hair colour is really blond. Let’s also say for arguments sake, that you’ve decided to write an essay about alcoholism and how it destroys families but you don’t want to call out Tom so as not to embarrass him or Sally should anyone read your work who knows you, here’s how you write about Tom without causing a fuss:

Choose from these: change his age, location, height, weight, gender, social etiquette (so no nose picking throughout the story) hobbies, hair colour, gait, and make his ex-girlfriend the opposite of what your friend Sally is, or also like Sally but a different ethnicity, from a different religion thereby changing the type of activities she’d be involved in or lifestyle she’d leave.

To take storytelling skills a step further I suggest you research more and speak to people who have experienced what you want to know about or who are experts in their field. For instance, I once wanted to speak to people whom had experienced homelessness. I didn’t have to look far on Ottawa’s downtown streets to meet someone who had been displaced. I sat down with this person over coffee (my treat) and asked them what life was really like. It would not have been ethical to write their life story and pitch their head shot for the cover of People Magazine or some other glossy periodical with mass subscribers but it was logical to take general facts about the lifestyle that was described to me and apply it to the character I created from thin air.

Anytime there is a question of what to leave in and what to take out where questioning if it is ethically acceptable to write or print stories with personal material from sources I ask myself two things: Is what I have written defamatory? Is it libelous? (If you do not know what these terms mean I suggest looking them up). When in doubt, take it out, is a popular rule of thumb used by many authors I have met whose writing I admire.

Then there’s what I have described as the question, “Mother may I?” In fact, it is nothing more than my fancy way of saying, would you be comfortable writing this information about your mother or would you be asking “Mother may I include this or that in my story about you?” (Or swap the word mother with another person you respect or admire). If the answer is no, you might be best to not tell it directly if you include it at all and certainly in no way make any reference to the person whose dialogue inspired you but you could perhaps show it in a third-person narrative with a newly developed character, this would make things a lot less personal between the reader and your work.

Writing in the first person is intensely more personal and direct than describing the same information happening to someone else.

So the next time you find yourself listening in on someone else’s conversation whether accidentally, because you are a captive audience or otherwise consider whether there is a story there you want to tell or that is deserving of telling, and sweep up the breadcrumbs you leave behind as you write deeper into your story, unless you are writing a memoir. Even then you may find yourself asking, “Mother may I?”